Parrish examines the budding friendship between two troubled women from different socioeconomic backgrounds in Men I Trust (Fantagraphics, Nov.).
What was your inspiration for the characters of Eliza and Sasha?
I wanted to write about a single mother for a long time. Although my dad was in my life, my primary caregiver was my mom. And you know, that can be a lonely thing. Not only does the parent seem to have to deal with that loneliness, but they also get the worst of the kid, because they’re there for everything, all the little and big problems in a given day. I thought that was an interesting dynamic to write about. It’s an experience that just doesn’t get put out into the world enough. I based Eliza a little bit on my mother.
Sasha is a combination of people I’ve known: adult children who haven’t quite grown up but are still trying to be better. Sasha often feels frozen in her circumstances. But when she falls down, she gets back up. Sasha eventually took on a personality of her own.
It seems that you were looking at class differences, too.
Definitely. I feel like if you’ve never experienced going without, there can be a romantic element viewing day-to-day struggles. In real life that attitude is extremely annoying, but some people just don’t know any better. There are a lot of otherwise sweet people who haven’t experienced what it’s like being without simple resources.
You paint your comics as much as draw them—how did you develop that style?
Drawing comics takes so long—it helps to have several parts of the process, so when you’re absolutely sick to death of one part, you can go to another part. When I was in my early 20s, I did everything in black-and-white; I suppose I just got really bored with it. Working with color, it’s so much more dynamic, and another way to create a sense of movement and time—to make worldbuilding almost lush. I feel like the best palette is out there, in the physical world. I get to look at the world in this different way.
Your characters are rendered with small heads and large, awkward bodies. Do you intentionally manifest that from their often uncomfortable lives?
Sort of. I’ve always had a hard time drawing realistically. But now it’s satisfying to me, creating bodies that look the way my characters do. There’s balance and weight to them. If the reader knows that this is a person, it only needs to be shaped like a person, which is a cool thing to lean into. But you’re the boss, you can do whatever you want. You can play with aesthetics and invite the reader to play with you.